Swarathma’s Blog

Handshake Concert Live Photoblog – Chowdiah Hall, Bangalore

These are a series of images of the Handshake Concert through our eyes. It is an honour to be a part of this event, featuring the likes of Pt. Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and the band we’ve admired for a long time – Shillong’s Soulmate. Here it is then, the glimpses from a day in the life of a ‘working-class’ band. More updates soon. Pics: Montry Manuel and Jishnu Dasgupta

3:15pm - "Alien Eyes" - Sanjeev checks out of reality after a mind-numbing lunch. Clearly he is coasting through hyperspace.

2:45pm - "Collateral Beef Damage" - Half the band headed to Windsor Pub for one of the awesomest lunches of all time. Crab rasam, Pandhi (Pork) curry and Erachi Varathathu (Beef). Madness.

12:40pm - "VVIP Mirror on the Wall" - Montry Manuel surprised in the green room while he quickly checks email in the green room. The green room has a very 70s feel... loving it.

12:10 - "Blues Soul in Silhouette" - Rudy Walang has the most amazing bluesy guitar tone. Eagerly awaiting the jam on Topi Walleh with him!

12:05pm - "Keynote address" - Soulmate is an awesome sounding band. Their brand of blues is just so powerful that it blew us away at soundcheck.

11:20am - "Mike's friends" - Stands all in a row in the Chowdiah backstage area. Fortunately we're not using these monsters. They have a habit of toppling over.


Live Photoblog :: Don Bosco Institute of Technology
March 26, 2011, 1:02 pm
Filed under: Tour, Tour Diary | Tags: , , , , ,

It’s a beautiful day. Overcast, drizzling. We gig today at Vismay 2011, the annual bash at Don Bosco Institute of Technology, Bangalore. Special guest today, the lovely Feli Geiger on the harp. There could be a bunch of djembe artists joining us on stage too!

Varun and Deb sort out stuff at the band's jampad at load-out. The lampshades are ghodi masks. The drum kit is resting. Pic: Prateek

The Ghodi crosses the road atop the sturdy shoulders of Vijay, road crew member. Sanjeev follows to make sure she's loaded in good. Pic: Vinay DV

Harp player and special guest from Germany Feli Geiger demos the air harp to an eager audience. She joins us on 'Pyaasi' tonight. Pic: Vinay DV

Jishnu cackles at something banal. Most of our jokes are. But then at the moment they're too funny to not guffaw at. Pic: Vinay DV

Pyar Ke Rang Tour: The Photomemoirs
February 21, 2011, 8:25 am
Filed under: Tour Diary

The Pyar ke Rang tour was special. The promise of seeing the Taj Mahal, a first time experience for most of us, on the St Valentine’s celebrated day of love was something we went ‘oooh!’ over. Add a gig at Pune, our second home, to a crowd of Symbiosis Inst of Design students who are pretty awesome in every way, and you have a winning combo! For the full set of pics, click here

'Superman at Soundcheck' - Soundcheck at Pune albeit delayed was chilled out. Friends dropped by while issues got sorted out. In this pic Varun Superboy plugs in his Crafter acoustic guitar with a direct XLR out and jangles out a few riffy chords. Pic: Kaustuv Dasgupta

'Bolo Shri Yeshu Allah aur Krishna keee..' - Vasu and Jishnu raise arms to heaven to catalyse a chant that can change the world! SID Pune outdoes itself each time. This gig at Ishanya saw two trains of junta going clockwise and anticlockwise around the venue in an euphoric frenzy. We loved it. Pic: Rushi Dolas

Jhilmil Parathas! - After a bleary-red-eye flight to Delhi, we set off on the Agra road trip. Pictured here is the epic Jhilmil Dhaba where obscene quantities of Aloo, Pyaaz, Gobi and Paneer parathas (spiced wheat flatbreads) were wolfed down. Pic: Pavan Kumar

Pre-Taj Moment - A delayed setup at the (largely forgettable) Agra venue meant we could squeeze in a Taj visit! Here we stand at the red sandstone gates waiting to exhale. The 22 domes on top og the gate (11 visible here) were made to mark the number of years it took. Pic: Irfan the Guide.

'Aye tere dar par' - We pose for a pic at the behest of Irfan, redoubtable guide who refused to speak in English. 'Aapne Indian ka rate diya hai, Hindi mein bolunga!' A great experience, nonetheless. Pic: Irfan the Guide

Hit the Lights! ~ Live at Hard Rock Cafe, Mumbai
September 4, 2010, 4:41 pm
Filed under: Tour Diary | Tags: , , , , ,

We’re mid-way through our set in Hard Rock Cafe, at the Opening Party of Nokia Music Connects 2010. Things have been going fairly swimmingly for us since we took over the stage from Oz-man Old Man River with whom we played 2 songs. And then, with no forewarning (not that we expected any) in the middle of ‘Pyaasi’ every light in Hard Rock Cafe went out. Every amp, every cabinet, everything on-stage and off, killed. A deathly pall descends.

Vasu plays the Khamok, Sanjeev on the shakers and Pavan on the Kanjira power through a power-cut at Hard Rock Cafe, Mumbai. Pic: Kunal Kakodkar. Courtesy nh7.in

It would be cool to say that for a moment we knew not what to do, and then the realization struck us that we ought to continue playing. But that would be a lie. To be honest, we didn’t think. We just kept playing and singing. And after the initial “Whoaaaa” from the crowd, we could hear voices singing with us, soaring louder and louder with each passing second. Before we knew it, Hard Rock Cafe became a magical galaxy of cellphone starlight, blinking and bobbing as the crowd stuck with us and got us through the song.

As the song drew to a close, there were no sign of the lights. We decided to press on with another song, this time ‘Khulja re’, our acoustic track that’s about fighting odds. There couldn’t have been a more apt moment to play the song, now could there?! We had everyone singing along right up to the time the lights came back on and we powered through the rest of a memorable set.

Here’s where we thank all of you folks for sticking by us in that time. And hey, thanks for coming out in the rain. We heard later that the HRC parking lot was a mini-lake that evening!

Swarathma in Morocco Podcast Episodes 2 and 3
September 4, 2010, 3:59 pm
Filed under: Experiences, Tour Diary | Tags: , , , , , ,

Here they are! The Morocco Podcast episodes 2 and 3 for your viewing pleasure. Put together by the good people at Babblefish Productions who stalked our every Marrakechian move.

Episode 2 has us getting to the venue, prepping, playing a memorable gig and the reactions of the lovely people in the country of Morocco. Watch!

Episode 3 has a memorable acoustic performance of Pyaasi on a Marrakech Cafe rooftop, after a crazy day of dancing in the streets with the dancers from GPD.

This concludes the podcast series. More coming up, stay tuned!

Loveboxing, Bedfording: Swarathma UK 2010 Tour Diary

Cartwheels on the Common

With one festival down and two to go, we were just getting warmed up. Saturday dawned sneakily, under a camouflage of clouds and sprang upon the unsuspecting city of London like a torch in the face of a sleeping cadet. Victoria Park, the venue of the Lovebox Festival was a stone’s throw away, or so we were led to believe. Turned out you needed a Bofors Gun to launch the stone. So we took a bus and legged it to the gate where Artist Accreditation (a booth-bungalow, if you get my drift) handed us wrist bands and put us in touch with a very matter-of-fact liaison lady who set about her business with German efficiency. It was easily the biggest festival (or perhaps even venue) we’d ever played at. Dozens of stages, some big, some small, scores of little nooks where you could catch a drink, relax between gigs, mill around, grab food…

Montry with a new found friend

Our stage was the Gaymers Bandstand, a circular covered structure bang in the middle of two huge stages. There was a tree house nearby, complete with tables, chairs and service before you get your Tarzan fantasy going. As the show was in London we had a bunch of friends show up: Guy Ohringer drove down from Oxford, Rajeev and Nisha, Chini our hostess with a day off made it a real feel-good gig. The fun part was we managed to stop all the traffic of people going from one stage to another, and by the time we wrapped up a short high-energy set, we had a crowd that went from the bemused curious to outright applauders. Lovebox FTW!

A wisp of cloud in a blue Swarathma sky

The rest of the evening brought home the fact that even though the festival was small by UK standards, it seemed HUGE to us. 30,000 people, great lights, happy crowds and good music in the unlikeliest of stages. I loved Kirsty Almeida whose myspace profile says she is influenced by ladybirds, rainbows and other delights that are all around us but we never notice. It is refreshing to see an artist that quotes such delights as musical interests. There was Man Like Me doing a set in a small tent-stage that blew my socks off with their stage presence and coordinated stage moves. There’s so much we learnt in such a short span of time!

Classic mmmmoment.

The last gig of the tour was at Bedford, at a festival by the river. This was a total village mela. Gazillions of rides, clowns, stilt-walkers, food and drink stalls, little flea-markets, and people milling around. They had a pretty decent stage where we were slated to play at 4pm but thanks to traffic and the general absence of correct directions we got there just in time. We had the unique experience of having to toss over our gear over a fence behind the backstage area in order to save time. I felt like I was an East German, about to play a concert in West Germany, looking furtively over my shoulder for the Stasi or border guards who would gun me down for escaping any moment. Nothing happened, of course. We did end up playing a fun show, a relatively quieter one. This was the only show where there were quite a few Indians, who looked equally bemused as the British.

Our benefactress Chini was incredibly sweet. Pun intended.

That was it, a short sweet tour wrapped up. We loaded back in to the tour van and headed homewards setting our controls for the heart of the sun, or London town, whichever you prefer. The next day would be a day off before we caught our flight back to India. We spent it giving Chini’s house a makeover. After a week of housing the Swarathma brigade, it had taken a beating as you can imagine. So while Chini went to work, we set to work too. The vacuum cleaner made an appearance as did several brand of domestic cleaners. We toodled off to my uncle’s home, our host the last time we were in London. My aunt had prepared a massive spread of honest-to-goodness Indian food that we fell upon like a pack of wolves forced to eat the food of sheep for a week. Don’t get me wrong, the English breakfast is great and the Shepherd’s Pie and Fish and Chips are all up there. But then place a spread of desi khana cooked at home and what can I say, you should shield you face from the splattering. We collapsed soon after in a stupor that good food frequently brings upon you, rousing from it only at the strident honking of the cabbie who would take us to Heathrow.

It was a terrific trip. Much had been accomplished, many doors opened, and new friends made. It was time to head home. And there were broad smiles in our hearts.

[Concluded. For now.]

The Larmer Tree Ride: Swarathma UK 2010 Tour Diary
July 25, 2010, 7:07 pm
Filed under: Tour Diary | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Festival Flags

I wonder what it is about a big city that winds people right up. I’ve seen it in the Bangalores, Mumbais and Delhis of the world, and I saw it in London too. There’s a strange mix of a constant state of wakefulness blended with an ever-present tiredness in everyone’s eyes. But the moment you travel outside the city, Nainital for example, or Guwahati (these being smaller towns we’ve played in) and the pace of life takes on a new life in the eyes of those who live there. More easy-going, less stressed, more liable to break into a smile, less liable to snap at you.

The Nari Cousins Prashant and Vijay.

I was made acutely aware of this in our festival weekend where we started out in the country, returned to London and then went back out again all in three back-to-back shows. The Larmer Tree Festival out on the Wiltshire/Dorset border just outside the city of Salisbury was a distillation of the loveliest people in the whole of England, or so it seemed. The stage manager Pete had a weather beaten face, but one filled with lines he got from smiling at the world, or so it seemed. Angel in pink disguise Abi was like a 500W bulb of good vibes. The place was smack bang in the middle of the English countryside which, I have to say, is just achingly beautiful with meadows and fields that fall away with a base jumper’s abandon. To have a music festival in a setting like this is about the best ideas you could have.

This was also our first real festival, complete with campervans, kids racing around dressed like dracula, a cross section of ages lounging about soaking in the sun (yes, we brought it back, muhahah), and the most delicious aromas wafting about like they were checking the festival out too. The show, ah what can I say. Suffice it is to say that it took us aback. From the first 10 or 15 people who started swaying to over a hundred of them right in front of us, moving, grooving, singing along, and not understanding a thing was a life-affirming moment for us all. It was quite kickass to see the topis and masks in the crowd too. The CD tent made brisk business, and we did an impromptu signing session. Now these are scheduled things where the big artists come down and interact with fans. Neither the organizers nor us thought one might be needed for an unknown Indian band! How’s that for the power of music?

You look up at the sky and this is what you saw.

Things went a little wrong in the end though. Montry and I got a little carried away by the brilliant atmosphere of the place and time slowed down. Thanks to that, the whole band got late getting out of the place and we hit bad traffic entering London. To all Bangaloreans, we say this. WE HAVE IT EASY! Downtown London on Friday night is a mangled mass of egos in cars. Vijay Nair was the most rattled. Every six minutes he would turn around from the front of the van and shoot gamma ray burst dirty looks at me. Richly deserved too, alas. Mention must be made of our angel of mercy on the road Prashant Nair. A chip of the old Nair block, he was absolutely marvelous as our driver and tour manager rolled into one.

Coming up: Love in a Box, and a Riverside Festival.